16th July. Feast Day. Within thy hallowed portals Carmel dear…Colour dress, food, music and dancing. My first year, when I was still new, I turned up wearing my best frock, and found the fashion sense of the rest of the school far evolved than me. Honestly though, I liked frocks- still do. You pick one thing, and you’re done. No need to find the right blouse or where in the name of Narnian cupboards did the dupatta or salwar disappear to? Anyway, I think I wore salwar suits for the next two feast days. As absurd as it now sounds, not every girl wore jeans those days, and I didn’t have any till I got to Class 10. I owe my fellow Carmelites for my first exposure to fashion, and for being able to conceive the thought that I could wear jeans too. And so on Feast Day in Class 10, I wore my first pair of bare denims with a pale pink tee. One of my friends kept trying to get me to dance but I couldn’t dance back then and I can’t dance now. Sorry, Mr. Darcy, you’ll always be my first love, but you were wrong about this one- not everyone can dance. Okay, I know you said “every savage” but we both knew you meant “everybody including random bespectacled school-going nerds some two centuries later who will grow up into random bespectacled college-teaching nerd” so there! Anyway, Feast Day was sort of like the event in the school calendar. People used to plan their outfits for weeks. It was like prom, minus the boys, although, sometimes there would be gossip afterwards – about which girl met who after the feast. All that seems so silly in retrospect.
In 2005, the year I finally left school, 16th July was the day Harry Potter and the HalfBlood Prince was published. It was also my first day in college. The memories that stand out from that day begin with reaching the Oxford BookStore early in the morning to grab my pre-ordered copy and sitting down in a quiet corner to read. I remember texting the friend nicknamed ‘Buckbeak’ that I was going to call her ‘Witherwings’ from then on, and I remember her reply but divulging that would involve sharing one of my own nicknames so I won’t. I remember another friend spoiling the death of a certain giant man-eating spider. I don’t think any of us were particularly devastated. (Sorry, friend nicknamed Aragog. You know I love you.) Funny how I remember the texts when none of those mobile sets in or those sim cards remain. “Where do vanished objects go? Into non-being, that is to say, everywhere.”[i]
I think by the next morning we all knew about the big death in the book, except for two people in the group. The first hadn’t bought the book on principle, because Sirius Black was dead so why the hell were we even crying over Dumbledore (I appreciated that sentiment, sort of. Sirius Black was, and remains to this day, my Greatest Fictional Love Ever, sorry again, Mr. Darcy). The other one hadn’t got a book yet, and so on the next day when we met for lunch where she arrived late, we all welcomed her by shouting- “Snape killed Dumbledore” at the top of our voices, that is to say, all of us except the-resolutely-not-mourning-Dumbledore-Sirius-fan who chipped in with an ingenious “Harry killed himself” in the loudest voice. And that, people is how you do spoilers. And may all the White Walkers chase you if you throw any my way.
But I digress. I was at Oxford Book Store on the morning of the 16th, so engrossed that I nearly missed my Orientation. Naturally, I had no time to eat my tiffin. After we had learned about the history and the notable alumni and the motto of the college, we went up to our classrooms to meet our respective HoDs. Room 10 was on the first floor, right in front of the staircase. I remember being anxious that I wasn’t going to hear Prof. Da Silva call out my roll number, so I asked the people sitting next to me what their roll numbers were so I could keep count. As soon as he left, the Second Years barged in. They came in and started demanding introductions. I said my name, and apparently no one could hear me, so I had to turn in every direction to say it again and again and again. And can I just mention that I was starving at this point and in the middle of a new Harry Potter book that I was just dying to get back to? Sorry, seniors, but I could never like you again after this. (I do like Monali Thakur, who was one of the 2nd Years then, but she never bothered us, and that’s not why I like her anyway).Incidentally, their methods sucked. The way to get a normally soft-spoken person to raise her voice is to make her teach a 50 marks English language paper to a very bratty Mechanical Engineering class or the CU Compulsory English course to half the college in one room. The last time I invigilated, I surprised myself with my own shouting.
I could talk about my three years in Xaviers’, but I already wrote a story about it back in my 3rd Year. It was about a tree and the marble steps to the auditorium and the momos on Wood Street and rain-washed days and dreams and lessons and first loves and interrupted games of Chinese Whispers. . It was my first published story, and when I feel too hopeless about things, I recall the encouragement I had received from my professors who read it and that sometimes keeps me going.
Back then I didn’t believe in Expiry Dates. Now I know they are inevitable, but there are always possibilities. And so long as I can believe in those, I know I will always be this dreaming young girl at heart, nervous on entering a new world- but hopeful of a wonderful future. Nihil Ultra, right?
Gotta go, peeps. Season 7 is Coming. You know what I said about spoilers.